Compare And Contrast Essay: A Complete Guide

Compare and contrast essays can be used to cover almost any topic. Therefore, they are commonly assigned to students in all areas of study. This is because a successfully written compare and contrast essay demonstrate the student has a comprehensive and thorough understanding of the chosen topic.

A compare and contrast essay is written in a rhetorical style examining two, or sometimes more, subjects. This could be people, places, concepts, ideologies. These essays specifically analyse the areas in which these topics are similar and different. In the comparison element, the writer explains how the subjects are similar. In the contrast aspect, the writer demonstrates how the topics differ.

A strong thesis is vital to writing a successful compare and contrast essay. This ensures the essay stays focused without going off-topic and getting lost in tangents. Your thesis will help you decide what information to include ensuring the information you include is relevant and that you are answering the question intelligently. So, let’s look at the essential features of a compare and contrast essay, how to create a powerful thesis statement and write a brilliant essay.

Definition Of a Compare And Contrast Essay

Firstly, let us get clear on what constitutes a compare and contrast essay. A compare and contrast essay revolves around a central theme. It takes relevant details and explains how and why they are similar or dissimilar. They are systematic and methodical essays demonstrating a neutral and well-informed position.

Purpose Of A Compare And Contrast Essay

These essays test students in their ability to read, digest and discuss information. It is an opportunity for the student to exhibit their observational skills and how well they can analyse and appropriately compare details.

Finding Your Essay Topic

Finding your essay topic is the first step to writing your compare and contrast essay and there are a few tricks when it comes to choosing the subject matter. You need to choose two, or sometimes more, subjects that have enough differences and similarities. This means the two topics need to be in the same field. For example, comparing and contrasting two films in the same genre will ensure there are enough variations in their dissimilarities, as well as ensuring there are a good range of similarities to discuss. Furthermore, if you were to compare and contrast a flower with a tree or a smartphone to a laptop, it is unlikely there would be enough similarities to write a great essay.

Here are some examples:

  • – Compare and contrast two Olympic 100m sprinters.
  • – Compare and contrast the English education system to the US.
  • – Compare and contrast two types of trees.
  • – Compare and contrast smartphones from different brands.
  • – Compare and contrast married and unmarried couples.
  • – Compare and contrast surfing in Bali to surfing in Tahiti.
  • – Compare and contrast an electric car to a car that runs on gas.

 

Here are some less successful comparative topics:

  • – Compare and contrast a flower to a tree.
  • – Compare and contrast a laptop to a smartphone.
  • – Compare and contrast an Olympic rower to a high jumper.
  • – Compare and contrast the mechanics of a bicycle to a car.

 

Top Tip

If you feel genuinely passionate and inspired by the topic you choose, this passion will naturally emanate from your writing. It will easily be conveyed to the reader, making the essay more interesting and compelling to read.

How To Get Started On Your Compare And Contrast Essay

Once you have chosen your subjects to compare, your next step is to make a plan by brainstorming. Your plan is vitally important. A great plan equally a great compare and contrast essay. There are many different ways to plan and different people suit different plans. Here we have shared some of the most effective and efficient planning techniques:

Lists: Make a list of the similarities and differences of the two topics. A great way to do this is by splitting your page in two with ‘similarities’ on one side and differences on the other. Note down the most obvious similarities and differences first. Next, explore the subjects from different angles and see what other similarities and differences you can find that are more subtitle. Don’t be afraid to get imaginative and think outside the box. This will make your essay more intriguing for the reader.

Follow this link to receive more guidance on how to make a compare and contrast list: https://creately.com/lp/compare-and-contrast-chart-maker-online

Venn Diagrams: This is a great organizational tool for those who like to learn visually. It is a simple technique that illustrates the differences and similarities of the topics vividly clear. To make the Venn diagram, first, draw two overlapping circles. Each circle represents one subject. In the overlapping section, write down the similarities and in the parts of the circle that remain separate, write the differences.

For more guidance on how to make Venn diagrams, follow this link: https://miro.com/templates/venn-diagram/

These planning techniques are clear and methodical which is precisely what you want for a compare and contrast essay plan. This is because they both organize your ideas systematically and distinctly.

Top Tip:

As you plan your essay, be sure that you analyze the differences and similarities finding conclusions to connect the two subjects. This will prevent your essay from becoming too basic. You do not want your essay to look like a groceries list! The purpose of the essay is to demonstrate a high level of analysis so make sure that you consider this whilst you plan.

Thesis Statement

As we have already discussed a thesis statement is the key to your compare and contrast essay.

Here are the important features to know about the thesis statement.

One sentence: It is only one sentence but it must be impactful and clear.

Introduction: It is presented in the introduction and positioned as the last sentence.

Address Comparison: You must address the comparison between the topics.

Bold Opinion: You should not only state your opinion but also be bold; do not restate the question.

Here is an excellent resource to help you write a thesis statement that packs a punch!

https://pa01001022.schoolwires.net/cms/lib6/PA01001022/Centricity/ModuleInstance/2081/How_to_Write_a_Compare_Contrast_Thesis.pdf

The Format of A Compare And Contrast Essay

The structure of a compare and contrast essay is essential. Since these essays are based on analysis of facts, you need to organize your facts clearly and concisely. There are two formatting methods that you can choose from.

Block Method: This method makes a clear distinction between the two subjects by separating the essay into two separate blocks. The information for the first subject is illustrated and outlined. The second block then follows containing all the information for the second subject.

Point by Point Method: This method lists each difference and similarity simultaneously. You take one detail and note its similarity and difference in each paragraph. Each paragraph is finished with a concluding sentence.

 

Formatting MethodAdvantageDisadvantage
Point by PointIt is easier for the reader to understand.You have to make the analysis comparisons yourself.
Block MethodIt is easier to write since you tackle each subject separately.The reader is left to make the comparisons.

 

Both these methods are structured into three main segments:

  1. Introduction
  2. Main Body (usually consists of two to three paragraphs)
  3. Conclusion

Let’s look in more detail at the formatting of these methods with an example.

Example Question: Compare and contrast the use of motorcycles to cars and their effect on their user’s lifestyle, finances and the city they inhabit.

 

Point by Point Method Example:

 

1. Introduce the subject

Define your theme

State your thesis in one sentence: Motorcycles and cars are both efficient ways to travel but your good choice benefits your lifestyle, home environment and finances.

 

2. Main Body Paragraph

Subject sentence: Motorcycles impact the owner’s lifestyle less than cars.

 

Subject 1: Motorcycles

Argument a). Motorcycles are smaller and easier to maintain.

Argument b). Motorcycles are easier to ride and are easier to park.

 

Subject 2: Cars

Argument a). It takes more time to learn how to drive a car well.

Argument b). Cars need more time and energy to be maintained.

 

Main Body Paragraph 2: Finances

– Subject sentence: Cars are more expensive to maintain than motorcycles.

 

Subject 1: Motorcycles

Argument a). You can buy a good motorcycle for under $300.

Argument b). They have fewer parts so they are easier to fix.

 

Subject 2: Cars

Argument a). The motorcycle parts are less expensive to replace.

Argument b). Cars need more gas than motorcycles.

 

Main Body Paragraph 3: City

Subject 1: Motorcycles

Argument a). Riding motorcycles creates less traffic in cities.

Argument b). Motorcycles are more agile for narrow city roads.

 

Subject 2: Cars

Argument a). Travelling outside a city in a car is more practical and efficient.

Argument b). Big cities are safer to navigate by car.

 

3. Conclusion

 

Block Method

1. Introduce the subject

Define your theme

State your thesis in one sentence: Cars and motorcycles are both efficient ways to travel but a good choice benefits the person’s lifestyle, home environment and finances.

 

2. Main Body Paragraph 1: Motorcycles impact the owner’s lifestyle less than cars.

Topic 1: Lifestyle

Argument a). Motorcycles are smaller and easier to maintain.

Argument b). Motorcycles are easier to ride and easier to park.

 

Topic 2: Finances

Argument a). You can buy a good motorcycle for under $300.

Argument b). Motorcycles have fewer parts so they are easier to fix.

 

Topic 3: City

Argument a). Riding creates less traffic in cities.

Argument b). Motorcycles are more agile for narrow city roads.

 

Main Body Paragraph 2: Cars are more comfortable for travelling but are more expensive.

 

Topic 1: Lifestyle

Argument a). It takes more time to learn how to drive a car well.

Argument b). Cars need more time and energy to be maintained.

 

Topic 2: Finances

Argument a). The parts of a car are more expensive to replace.

Argument b). Cars need more gas than motorcycles.

 

Topic 3: City

Argument a). Travelling outside a city in a car is more practical, safer and efficient.

Argument b). Big cities are easier and safer to navigate by car.

 

  1. Conclusion: Make evaluative comparisons to link the two block paragraphs together.

Evidence Is Everything In Compare And Contrast Essays

Every argument you make must be backed up. In other words, every idea you present has to be supported by factual evidence. This is what makes your idea or argument valid. When stating your evidence, you have a wide range of sources to choose from. I have some examples for you:

  • – Magazines
  • – Books
  • – Scholarly articles
  • – Personal experience
  • – Movies
  • – Podcasts
  • – Newspaper articles
  • – Lectures

 

Examples Of Compare And Contrast Essays

By now, you should have a clear understanding of how to structure a compare and contrast essay. To emphasize this understanding further, it is a great idea to read examples of these essays. Follow this link for examples of compare and contrast essays: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/ivytech-engl111/chapter/comparecontrast-essays/

We have also included a short example of the compare and contrast formula whereby the point is supported by evidence and then concluded.

Example Question: Compare and contrast city life to country living.

Formula

Point: City life moves faster than country living.

Evidence: Food shopping takes longer when living in the country.

Conclusion: The difference between city living and living in the country is that life moves at different speeds.

Although city life and country living share similarities, there are fundamental differences. Country living moves at a slower pace. Getting to the shops takes longer when you live in the countryside. You need to get in the car and drive to the local town. Whereas in the city, there is usually a shop within a minutes walk. Therefore, you need to leave more time when living in the countryside and accept that food shopping takes up more time.

 

Further Examples

One of the most effective and efficient ways to understand the outline of compare and contrast essays is to read examples of them. This will give you a thorough comprehension of how they work. Here are two sources that will provide you with a range of examples that can inspire and support you to write your best compare and contrast essays.

https://academichelp.net/samples/academics/essays/compare-contrast/

https://samples.essaypro.com/Compare-and-Contrast-Essay/Organic-and-Non-organic-Food.pdf

Final Thoughts

The arguments and ideas in your compare and contrast essay need to transition easily from one to the other. To make your essay flow more easily, use transition words and phrases to link your ideas together seamlessly. These words will prevent your essay from being presented as a list or feeling too factual.

Here is a list of transition phrases and words to help you when comparing topics:

  • – Furthermore
  • – Likewise
  • – Also
  • – Both
  • – Similarly
  • – In addition
  • – One similarity
  • – In a similar fashion

 

Here is a list to help you when contrasting topics:

  • – In contrast
  • – Unlike
  • – On the other hand
  • – Moreover
  • – However
  • – Whereas
  • – Conversely
  • – One difference

For further inspiration on how to use transition words and phrases to enhance your compare and contrast essay, follow this link: https://blog.udemy.com/list-of-transition-words

Final Recap on Outlining Compare And Contrast Essays

Let us end this outlining article on compare and contrast essays with a final summary of the essay’s most important components.

  1. – When choosing your topic make sure you feel genuinely inspired by your subject. Your passion is key!
  2. – Remember to choose topics that have enough differences and similarities.
  3. – Choose subjects that are in the same field.
  4. – There are two essay formats to choose from: block method and point by point method.
  5. – The block method is easier to write but the reader is left to draw the comparisons themselves.
  6. – The point by point method is more technical to write but it makes the comparisons clearer for the reader to understand.
  7. -Write a stellar thesis statement.
  8. – The thesis statement should be one powerful sentence.
  9. – Keep the thesis in mind whenever you make a point as this will keep all your information relevant.
  10. – Analysis is key to this essay so make sure you analyze every idea.
  11. – Every idea or argument you make must be backed up by sufficient evidence.
  12. – Every idea with its supporting evidence also must be followed by a concluding point.
  13. – To avoid your essay becoming like a list utilize transition words.

Remember, that compare and contrast essays are firstly about observing and organizing information. Secondly, they are about analyzing and making conclusions about this information. Therefore, a methodical and well-planned approach will give you the best chance of writing a successful compare and contrast essay. This will ensure you make meaningful arguments about your chosen subject. Good luck and have fun!

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